1 Afrox Product Reference Manual
Welding Consumables | Carbon Steels |
Section 12 - Welding Consumables 1
Carbon Steels 1
Welding of Carbon Steels 2
MMA Electrodes 24
MIG/MAG Wires 44
MIG & TIG Wires for CMn & Low Alloy Steels 50
Flux & Metal Cored Wires 53
Cored Wires for CMn & Low Alloy Steels 62
Subarc Wires & Fluxes 65
Submerged Arc Fluxes 70
Submerged Arc Wire & Flux Combinations 73
Oxy-Fuel & Gas Welding Rods 76
| Carbon Steels12
2Afrox Product Reference Manual
| Welding Consumables | Carbon Steels
Weldability of SteelWeldability is a term used to describe the relative ease or difficulty with which a metal or alloy can be welded. The better the weldability, the easier it is to weld. However, weldability is a complicated property, as it encompasses the metallurgical compatibility of the metal or alloy with a specific welding process, its ability to be welded with mechanical soundness, and the capacity of the resulting weld to perform satisfactorily under the intended service conditions.
Before attempting to weld any material, it is essential to know how easy it is to weld and to be aware of any problems that might arise. One of the main problems likely to be encountered when welding carbon and alloy steels is hydrogen cracking. For hydrogen cracking to occur, it is necessary to have a supply of hydrogen to the weld and a heat affected zone (HAZ), a susceptible hardened microstructure, and tensile stress. If any one of these three components is eliminated, then hydrogen cracking will not happen. Solidification cracking and lamellar tearing are other potential problems associated with welding steel.
The main problem when welding steel is hardenability. As long as the steel contains sufficient carbon when it is cooled rapidly from high temperature, a phase transformation takes place. The phase transformation from austenite to martensite causes the material to harden and become brittle. It is then liable to crack on cooling, due to restraint, or later under the action of hydrogen.
Variation in temperature from the centre of the weld to the base material
The weldability of steel depends primarily on its hardenability and this, in turn, depends largely on its composition (most importantly its carbon content). Steels with carbon content under 0,3% are reasonably easy to weld, while steels with over 0,5% are difficult. Other alloying elements that have an effect on the hardenability of steel, but to a much lesser extent than carbon, are manganese, molybdenum, chromium, vanadium, nickel and silicon. These, together with carbon, are all generally expressed as a single value (the carbon equivalent). The higher the carbon equivalent, the higher the hardenability, the more difficult the steel is to weld, and the more susceptible the microstructure is likely to be to hydrogen cracking.
This effect can be overcome by preheat combined with the use of a low hydrogen process or low hydrogen welding consumables. Calculation of preheat is usually based on carbon equivalent (derived from steel composition), combined thickness of the components, and heat input from the welding process. It also takes account of the amount of hydrogen likely to be introduced into the weld metal by the welding process. If welding under high restraint, extra preheat may need to be applied. Some high carbon steels and low alloy steels may also need a post weld stress relief or tempering.
Hardenability and Hardness
To become harder, steel must undergo a phase change. The starting point is austenite, so the steel must first be heated into the austenitic temperature range (see diagram on left).
Austenite, quenched rapidly, will be transformed into martensite, a hard but brittle phase.
A slower cooling rate will promote formation of bainite and/or other softer phases.
Cooled even more slowly, a soft structure of ferrite plus cementite, called perlite, results.
Martensite, tempered martensite and heavily tempered martensite
Hardenability is the potential for any particular steel to harden on cooling and, as the carbon content of the steel increases towards 0,8%, so the potential of the steel to harden increases. Increasing the alloy content of the steel also increases the hardenability.
While hardness and strength may be desirable in a welded steel structure, martensite can be brittle and susceptible to cracking, and it should be noted that the potential brittleness of the material also increases as hardenability increases.
Hardenability describes the potential of steel to form hard microstructures. What hardness is actually achieved in steel with known hardenability depends on the maximum temperature to which it is heated and the cooling rate from that temperature. During welding, the parent material close to the weld will be heated to temperatures near melting point, while further away it will remain at ambient temperature. The cooling rate depends on the mass of material, its temperature, and the welding heat input. Therefore, when welding any given hardenable steel, the hardness in the HAZ depends on the cooling rate the faster the cooling rate, the harder the microstructure produced and the more susceptible it is to cracking.
Iron carbon equilibrium diagram
Ferrite + Cementile
Temperature distribution across half the weld
Welding of Carbon Steels
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3 Afrox Product Reference Manual
Welding Consumables | Carbon Steels |
After welding, the hardness in the HAZ may range from less than 300 HV to more than 550 HV, depending on the parent steel composition and the other factors described above. As the hardness of the HAZ increases, so does its susceptibility to hydrogen cracking. However, as a rule of thumb, if the maximum hardness in the HAZ is maintained below 350 HV, then hydrogen cracking will be avoided.
Carbon has the greatest effect on the hardenability of steel, but other alloying elements may be added to increase its hardenability. The addition effectively reduces the critical cooling rate and the temperature at which the austenite to martensite transformation takes place, making it easier for martensite to form at slower cooling rates.
Alloying elements that have the greatest influence on the hardenability of steel are manganese, molybdenum, chromium, vanadium, nickel, copper and silicon, but they have a much smaller effect than carbon.
The effect of these elements on the tendency to form HAZ martensite, and hence the likelihood of hydrogen cracking, is expressed conveniently as a carbon equivalent (CE). This basically describes the influence of each element on hardenability in terms of the effect that carbon has. There have been many different formulae derived to express carbon equivalent, but the one quoted here is the International Institute of Welding (IIW) equation that is applicable to carbon steel and is widely used:
Carbon equivalent (CE) =
+(%Ni + %Cu)
+(%Cr + %Mo + %V)
6 15 5
The equation is only valid for certain maximum percentages of each element and these percentages can be found in the technical literature.
The carbon equivalent is used mainly for estimating preheat. Preheat is necessary to slow down the cooling rate sufficiently to reduce hardening in the HAZ of welds in susceptible carbon and low alloy steels. This, in turn, helps to prevent subsequent HAZ hydrogen cracking. The overall effect is to improve the weldability of the steel being welded, or at least to overcome the weldability problems presented by it.
CE is calculated from the composition of the steel in question and is used together with welding heat input, potential hydrogen from the consumable, and combined thickness, or by reference to published data to determine the preheat. It is recommended that the actual composition of the steel is
used to ensure accuracy of calculation of CE, but nominal or maximum specified compositional data may be used when this is unavailable. The use of nominal composition obviously carries some risk that CE will be underestimated and too low preheat will be used, with potential cracking problems.
Weldability describes the relative ease or difficulty with which a metal or alloy can be welded.
The relative weldability of carbon and low alloy steels are summarised here.
As has already been stated, weldability varies with the chemistry of the steel, particularly with reference to its carbon content.
The majority of carbon steels are weldable, but some grades have better weldability and, therefore, are more easily welded than others. As the carbon content increases, weldability tends to decrease as the hardenability increases and the steel becomes more prone to cracking.
Low carbon steels containing
4Afrox Product Reference Manual
| Welding Consumables | Carbon Steels
although some will require controls on preheat and heat input. Those at the higher end of the carbon range also benefit from the use of low hydrogen welding processes or controlled hydrogen consumables.
Structural steels often have limits imposed on maximum carbon equivalent to ensure good weldability and ease of welding for the fabricator.
Weldable high strength low alloy (HSLA) steels have wel